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Stress Management: How to Zen Out When You're a Freelancer

  • By Adela Belin
  • November 25, 2020

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
Spoiler: This is water. For the uninitiated, this parable shared by the brilliant David Foster Wallace perfectly portrays our collective tendency to get caught up in the frenetic whir of entrepreneurial life. We lose sight of the present moment and the simple, big picture realities that both envelop and drive us in favor of crossing items off an interminable to-do list.
In the long run, this always-on mentality can cost us dearly in the form of missed opportunities and a-ha moments, productivity undermined by stress and lack of clarity, and the general ill effects of an unexamined life. With mindfulness resources and apps on the rise, there’s never been a better to time unplug your laptop and explore your approach to stress management.

Trend meets tried-and-true

When it comes to managing stress as an solopreneur, one of the most expedient tonics is a steadfast mindfulness practice. By now, this shouldn’t exactly be news. Arianna Huffington makes a legit killing peddling the benefits of sleep—why didn’t I think of this?—and meditation. Meditation and nap rooms pods are springing up in the offices of Silicon Valley, and I don’t know, personally, whether I can stomach one more piece about a CEO who swears by meditating after their 4 a.m. workout each day.
Though it bears the hallmarks of a fad, scientific studies back up the benefits of this ancient practice. Meditation brings about a cascade of measurable structural changes to your noodle, from reduced fight or flight response (you’re unflappable), to increased empathy (you make your clients feel so understood), and improved memory and cognition (you have a very good brain).

Taking time to make time

So, how do you get started? For starters, save a space for silence in your day. No hippie-dippie vibes at play here; clarity and some of the best business solutions and ideas come from these quiet, solitary moments, so carve out time for this mental software update.
We tend to judge our careers on scale and quantity, versus quality and whether we have a sense of wellbeing—and as freelancers, there’s always a whole lot to keep track of. While we’re not breaking out the patchouli, it’s critical to mentally recalibrate, and consider the fact that more is not always better. Though it makes us feel we’re doing “enough,” more action is not always more productive. Mindfulness can help keep intentionality at the core of your daily grind, and as a welcome by-product, help keep stress levels in check.

There are so many ways to skin the mindfulness cat, allowing yourself the latitude to experiment is a solid first step. Give each strategy a bit of time to ascertain what works best with your routine. Read on to learn how mindfulness can fit into your approach to stress management:

The Mindfulness Starter Kit for Freelancers

Attitude of Gratitude: Start the morning with a few declarations of gratitude, large or small. You might be grateful for a recent lucrative introduction, or you might take a moment to appreciate the simple glory of clear sinuses now that you’ve recovered from that cold.
Device-Free Workouts: Combine the benefits of exercise with a clean mental canvas, devoid of the clutter of constant stimulation. Find another time to catch up on your podcasts.
Mini Meditations: set an alarm at regular intervals during the day to take a 1-2 minute break. Far from a disruption, you’ll return to the task at hand with better clarity and focus.
Full Blown Meditation: in a perfect world, you’ll detach from technology when you’re getting your head right. In the meantime, any of these apps will help structure your meditation for maximum benefits. Commit whatever time you can, even if it’s five minutes.
Anxiety Triage: As stress or nerves build up, take a moment to focus exclusively on steady, deep breathing. It reduces adrenaline and will help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, restoring your ability to perform.
Bedtime Ban on Screens: Quality sleep drives quality hustle. At the end of your day, resolve to put the phone away to allow your brain to transition to sleepytime.
As a freelancer, you (and more specifically, your mind) is your product, your business and your livelihood. When it comes to stress management, a solid foundation can be built upon the incorporation of meditation and mindfulness in your day-to-day life.
How do you zen out to keep your brain fresh? Let us know in the comments below.

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